European regulators have fined Google €2.42 billion (AU$3.57 billion) for abusing its market dominance in search by giving an unfair advantage to its own comparison shopping service.
On top of the initial fine, the ruling means Google will have to change the way its search function operates in Europe or risk further penalties.
The European Commission has given Google 90 days to come up with a fix for the problem. If it doesn’t comply, it risks fines of up to 5 per cent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Google is likely to appeal the decision.
“Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission’s decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case,” Kent Walker SVP and Google’s General Counsel said in a statement.
The commission ruled Google gave prominent placement to its own comparison shopping service at the top of search results and demoted rival comparison shopping services, which on average appear on page four of Google’s search results.
“Google abused its market dominance as a search engine by promoting its own comparison shopping service in its search results, and demoting those of competitors,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager.
For its part, Google argues shoppers prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to comparison shopping websites where they have to repeat their searches.
“When you use Google to search for products, we try to give you what you’re looking for. Our ability to do that well isn’t favouring ourselves, or any particular site or seller–it’s the result of hard work and constant innovation, based on user feedback,” Walker wrote.
Google is facing two more antitrust cases in Europe examining its Android software for smartphones and its AdSense online advertising service.
The Commission “is concerned that Google has stifled choice and innovation in a range of mobile apps and services by pursuing an overall strategy on mobile devices to protect and expand its dominant position in general internet search” and that AdSense “has reduced choice by preventing third-party websites from sourcing search ads from Google’s competitors.”